Keep your eyes on these guys

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The Toronto Maple Leafs unveiled their new uniforms Wednesday.

Their fans should be unveiling their annual Stanley Cup parade route any day now.

Yes ... hockey's back.

For some of us, that means Saturday nights, beer and buddies, friendly trash talking and perhaps a tuque.

For others, it means player rankings, questions about linemates, online drafts, more excessive trash- talking and perhaps a few unfair trade offers.

If you're in the latter group, we've got you covered with a three-part primer on the upcoming National Hockey League season, from a poolie's perspective.

Training camps, which opened Thursday around the league, don't provide a great indicator of which stars will exceed their lofty expectations, but preseason hockey can be a good indicator of which young players will see more ice time, and should be on your radar heading into the draft.

Here are six players to keep your eye on during the next couple of weeks:

-- Drew Stafford, Sabres: He was promoted to the big club last November, and while he notched a respectable 13 goals and 14 assists in 41 games, he did it playing behind two lines stacked with talent. The Sabres have lost some of their biggest guns and will be looking for someone to step up.

-- Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals: He's got hype, high expectations and a spot on a line with Alexander Ovechkin waiting for him. Backstrom, the fourth pick in the 2006 draft, will get every chance to produce as a rookie.

-- Valtteri Filppula, Red Wings: Filppula saw some time on the third and fourth lines last year and played a larger role in the playoffs for the Wings. Coach Mike Babcock loves his playmaking and two-way game. There are spots open on the second line in Detroit and "Flip" has an excellent chance of landing one.

-- Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks: This one is a no-brainer for anyone who watched the World Junior Championship last year, where Toews was phenomenal. The Hawks are letting their young talent loose and Toews could end up playing with Martin Havlat.

The Extra Points is 24 hours' fantasy sports column.


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